BY THE BAY
SPANISH MISSION HOUSE,
FULL RENOVATION, ALTERATION & RESTORATION.
An extraordinarily beautiful house built to a very high standard of detail in Spanish Mission style, circa 1929.
The house, which was bought by my clients recently, had been extended a few decades ago, but luckily most of the detailing had been retained in the original part of the house. With glorious arched lead lighting and intricate timber work, the bones of the Spanish Mission design were still there, albeit a little unloved and needing restoration and repair to bring them back to their full beauty.
The floor plan of the house was utterly reworked without requiring an additional footprint, as the clients are keen gardeners and wished to retain as much opportunity for a gentle, country-style garden as possible.
Externally, the house was given room to breathe, with simplified and sympathetic landscaping, new limewash to the original render, new gutters and downpipes connected to water tanks and new permeable paving forming a carriage driveway and safe paths throughout the garden. Custom designed gates and even a bench seat were built on site to suit the unique Spanish Mission style.
Internally, original rooms were given new purposes - including creating a Book Room to the front of the house, for an owner who was a former librarian and loves to be able to easily access her vast collection of titles. Book cases are tucked all over the house: some as floor mounted units and some as high level book shelves which are accessed by a new sliding library ladder. Every room was reworked and updated, bringing this very beautiful home back to life.
Joiner: Peter Gill Kitchens.
Photography: V Style.
SPANISH MISSION: 1920s STYLE
In the early 20th century, the bayside suburbs of Melbourne were considered to be equally a holiday destination and a very covetable place to live - and this charming house was built to be both. It has a seaside holiday ambience, but also has a sense of a country home in the city. It was clearly intended to be a place in which timeless beauty is allowed to shine.
Built for the female owner by her builder father, in the last year of the roaring 20s, the house was obviously crafted with much love and care in the fashionable Spanish Mission style, as evidenced by the high quality timber work and the soundness of the construction.
From California to Melbourne…
In contemporary Australian culture at this time, the Californian Spanish Colonial Revival influence was very strong, encouraged by publicity of the glamorous homes of Hollywood movie stars, who favoured the style. An amalgalm of the ealier Spanish Colonial architecture of the 16th century and Mission Revival (itself an early 20th century interpretation of the 18th and 19th century missionaries built predominantly around California by Spanish immigrants), this style, with vernacular variations, became known in Australia as Spanish Mission.
Which is where this beautiful home comes into the story. If you were a stylish young woman building your own house in 1929 in Melbourne, wouldn’t you also want to incorporate the latest in elegant, glamorous style into your new home?
Luckily for posterity, that’s exactly what she did.
So when the current owners purchased the property, they found themselves owning not just a beautiful home in need of restoration and TLC, but a house which is a fascinating part of Melbourne’s architectural history.
the ‘wow’ factor starts at the front entry
The lucky discovery of the original plans and specifications (found by the new owner’s tenacious hunting) revealed that the entry once had a ‘tiffany finish’ applied to the walls.
Using 21st century paint from Haymes, we re-interpreted this early 20th century finish with carefully applied layers of copper, gold and russet paint by the incredibly talented painter in our team.
The result: a room that literally glows, enhancing the original 1929 emerald green glass pendant light, intricate plastered ceilings and richly detailed timber work.
a dramatic room needs a dramatic light
In a room this beautiful, a dramatic light was needed which could hold its own.
A custom-made light from Ash Allen, made from old bluestone kerbing that was ground, remixed and fired at high temperature, is a chameleon which reflects the changing colours of the walls throughout the day and night.
A new timber shelf was made by the carpenters to form a handy spot for flowers from the new garden, in a shape which echoed the house’s original style.
Subtle references to the patterning in the original lead light windows were incorporated into all of the new works, including on the design of the new driveway gates.
The diamond relief echoes the diamond to the upper sash window lead light, whilst the three central pickets mimic the number of windows to the front elevation. (Three windows in a bay is a very typical component of Australian Spanish Mission style houses of the late 20s and 30s.)
Arched tops on the pickets also reference the fanlight pattern above the central window, the brick arches on the veranda, and in the masonry stringline above the front windows.
Arches in the Kitchen
The arched exterior detail was also picked up in the interior joinery - with routed arches to the doors and drawers of the Tasmanian Oak in the kitchen, pantry, scullery and dish room.
Blue and Caramel tiles set the tone
We were delighted to find that despite the various layers of renovations which had occured over the decades, the original kitchen hearth tiles, in a pale caramel and blue colour scheme, were still there.
These tiles were retained (shown above) and together with the original dark caramel and blue tiles in the formal dining room, formed the basis for the new colour scheme throughout the house.
The mantelpiece and chimney breast were retiled in a mix of Japanese glazed mosaics in mottled colours of caramel and blue, whilst the dark stained skirtings and paler Tasmanian Oak cupboards played with the theme of pale and burnt caramel tones.
At just over four metres, the island bench links the old and new sections of the house, by running across the old timber floor and the new polished concrete floor. At the junction, a solid piece of Tasmanian Oak timber runs around and through the island bench, to celebrate the connection.
The new kitchen is served by a dedicated scullery, pantry and dish room, creating plenty of spaces for display of much-loved treasured items. Flanked by a dining room on one side and a casual living space on the other, the kitchen is now the heart of the home.
the tiles that started it all…
The 1929 blue and brown glazed tiles on the fireplace which formed the springboard for the colour scheme, are now happily surrounded by new custom joinery to house wine and serving ware.
making the laundry glamorous
The laundry was also treated to arched Tasmanian Oak cupboards, polished Spanish porcelain benchtops and Japanese mosaic tiles.
Corbels on the top plinths reference the corbels on the original plate shelves in the entry and book room.
Dog washing in style
A oversized porcelain sink and a flexible hand shower make washing the family dogs a little less messy - and there’s even a custom made walk up ramp for these very loved (and very adorable) dogs.
The owners have lived in many fascinating lands, and along the way have collected treasured items, as a way of remembering the people with whom they have spent time.
One of these treasures is a collection of fabrics, which we incorporated into the new works. The guest room, pictured here, has Roman blinds and cushions made from a silvery-blue hand-embroidered fine cotton, which the owner bought years ago whilst in India. The blue of this threaded fabric perfectly tied in with the colour scheme for the whole renovation and restoration.
pattern on pattern
In the new ensuites, which are located in the extended section of the house, subtle patterns in the joinery and carpentry talk to the patterns seen in the original rooms.
The curved foot blocks on the kickboards and the shaped architraves on the new doorway (seen here in the mirrored reflection) are gentle echoes from the rest of the house.
In the bathrooms, as in all the new wet areas (kitchen, pantry, scullery, laundry, etc.) dramatic tiles were selected, in reference to the amazing original 1929 tiles on the fireplace mantle in the dining.
a touch of whimsy
With a nod to 1920’s Hollywood, the guest bathroom is playfully dramatic.
The main bathroom became the guest bathroom, and was a chance to introduce some elegant late 1920’s pattern and detail in the tiling.
Taking the cues of grass green and gold from the lead light windows, we introduced a band of green crackled tiles, with a diamond-patterned gold glass tile insert (which echo the diamonds in the windows), set in an upper band of sand coloured crackled tiles.
We extended the timber dado rail beyond its original window placement to also run across the length of the long wall. And included new corbels to match. By placing an inset mirror above that, the room not only feels more spacious, but the dramatic effect of reflecting the gold tiled pattern in the shower creates a sense of theatre and playfulness.
BEFORE AND AFTER
Earlier renovations had retained many of the original features, like the terrazzo floor, pedestal basin and drop in steel bath in the main bathroom. (Seen here in a photo snapped on the first day my clients owned the house.)
We retained these elements, restoring and repairing them wherever possible, and removed unsympathetic alterations.
New elements were selected to enhance the essence of the Spanish Mission character, and to honour the quality of fittings that had originally been sourced.
Now that the house has been lavished with attention from top to toe, it’s once more a very loved, and very treasured home.
And I have a sneaky suspicion that the original owner would be very appreciative of the new owners’ dedication to preserving and rejuvenating this stunning Spanish Mission home as a place of beauty and calm.